The Star-Spangled Banner spans the 15-year arc from 9/11 to 11/9, concluding with a poem based on voices overheard the night of Trump’s election by poet Michael Ruby, a journalist who has covered U.S. politics for decades….
The Star-Spangled Banner spans the 15-year arc from 9/11 to 11/9, concluding with a poem based on voices overheard the night of Trump’s election by poet Michael Ruby, a journalist who has covered U.S. politics for decades. Ruby began the book in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when he saw people freely using U.S. national symbols for their own political purposes. He decided to do the same thing for poetic purposes. Every poem in the book, which is dedicated to Jasper Johns and Jimi Hendrix, uses the 81 words of the national anthem and inserts words into the spaces between them. The poems have different vocabularies—sometimes surrealist like Ruby’s related book, American Songbook (2013), sometimes documentary and personal like his trilogy Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (2012). The Star-Spangled Banner is an artistic encounter with one of America’s leading national symbols, using the frame of Francis Scott Key’s War of 1812 lyrics in unexpected ways, and an unusual verbal and emotional portrait of the time from 9/11 to 11/9.
ADVANCE PRAISE for The Star-Spangled Banner
Michael Ruby’s The Star-Spangled Banner bravely demonstrates how history and politics infuse the quotidian. Throughout this innovative collection, Ruby disrupts the nation’s political discourse by reclaiming the words of our national anthem in ways neither Francis Scott Key nor any contemporary politician ever could have imagined. In this bold experiment in contemporary poetics, Ruby charts our country’s trajectory from 9/11 to the 2016 election: a true American tragedy and failure. By collaging both poetic and political lineages, Ruby redefines the possibilities of documentary poetry to take on the urgent difficulties of our times.
Michael Ruby has written a spangled and wild critique of American exceptionalism and made it into his own gleaming anthem for our moment, in this way reminding us that we can renovate our broken mythos into a song for oneself but with the knowledge that out of the one, many, many left behind, suffering abjections beyond anthem and national identity. Formally astute and rhythmically alive these sequences hold their nerve and deliver a gut punch.
Brooklyn of ample poetry was mine. (Props to Walt Whitman.) Looking west, wandering the waterfront below the Bridge, I’m often whacked by the legacy of my borough’s place in American poetry. Michael Ruby also looks west from Brooklyn as he riffs on America’s national anthem. Striating the text, like the design of the stripes on the banner itself, he inserts his own observations and literary/historical musings on America between the hymn’s words. Structurally, one is impelled to ask, are these sanctified words constraints like prison bars, or hand holds provided to climb ever higher on? One is confronted with an eternal American question: Why must freedom be the opposite of perfection?
–Loren Munk (aka James Kalm)
[following design] Michael Ruby e x p l o r e s P o e t r y.
In subtitling this book “A Divine Comedy,” the poet Marc Vincenz brushes up against Dante, and yet he does so “in the pulse of a breath, /waiting for the rain / to wash away the dream.” There is light here—not perhaps the roseate of the Florentine retinue—but one we can use right now: “All visions / gone, but this, a world, / a world / dancing ahead…”
In subtitling this book “A Divine Comedy,” the poet Marc Vincenz brushes up against Dante, and yet he does so “in the pulse of a breath, /waiting for the rain / to wash away the dream.” There is light here—not perhaps the roseate of the Florentine retinue—but one we can use right now: “All visions / gone, but this, a world, / a world / dancing ahead.” Vincenz questions notions of humanity, the potency and power of language over time, implying perhaps that codes have driven us throughout history and that the emergence of the AI will yield the next stage in its evolution. After a long night of the soul, where formal religion yields to love and imagination, we emerge to a healing space that is both inner and outer, physical and spiritual. The Syndicate of Water & Light gives us a sense that we can grow in knowledge and that we can change—if not, perhaps, the world, then at least within ourselves.
The fourth poetry collection by Carrie Etter focuses on her hometown of Normal, Illinois, in the American Midwest. The Weather in Normal is not a set of straightforward memories but a slowly shifting entity, like a moving storm ….
Carrie Etter’s fourth poetry collection focuses on her hometown of Normal, Illinois, in the American Midwest. The Weather in Normal is not a set of straightforward memories but a slowly shifting entity, like a moving storm. The book opens with ‘Night Ode’, a poem set on a single street at night, the protagonist walking and feeling the oppressive summer heat, the humming of cicadas and the various ages she has walked the same road: “sixteen, nineteen, twenty-four, thirty-seven…”. This introduces us to the main themes of memory and recollection, of mature reflections on youthful experiences, of multiple, shifting perspectives.
The first of the book’s three arcs explores the family’s relationship to the weather and place, from the father’s obsession with the weather, to the brutal effects of the winters on the family, resulting in broken bones, the recognition of poverty, and the father’s paralysis. Yet the relationship to place also includes its appreciation. Etter offers us a vivid impression of the American prairie with its cornfields extending to the horizon. She muses on the various meanings of ‘Prairie’ and understands a landscape can haunt the imagination the way the past haunts the present.
The second arc explores the effect of the loss of the family home in the long poem ‘Afterlife.’ The house is a place of memory and of dream, an upbringing in a house crowded with sisters and then with her sisters’ children: “once three sat atop/ the upright piano/ playing the keys/ with their feet”. What is it to return, in imagination, to the house in which her father died? Can one ultimately relinquish one’s childhood home to its new owners?
The book’s final arc concerns the effects of climate change in Illinois, in part through the long poem, ‘Scar’, chronicling these effects—the greater occurrence of extreme weather, the loss of species, etc.–as well as human responsibility for them. Just as The Weather in Normal begin with music in ‘Night Ode’, so it ends with ‘And Now for a Kind of Song,’ a eulogistic poem relishing the poet’s relationship to Illinois.
“Taking the temperature of memory, Etter’s deeply moving fourth collection maps family and personal history against the iconography of the seasons and the planetary slide into climate disaster. Etter’s richly inventive phrasing keeps this compelling range of concerns vividly opening up with immediacy, urgency, and sensitivity. Her connection of the global with the familial reminds us to “take it personally,” while implicitly arguing for the intimacy of our relations with the world at every level.”
Philip Gross: “One of the particular gifts of poetry is here in force: the power of a few words to create great spaces. The spaces of a prairie landscape round a small town or between present and past, between people in a family or between words on the page, these are not emptiness but tingling with resonance, with the poems’ fine attention. Touched and unsettled, we slip seamlessly between the intimate detail of loss and the vast perspective in which even the prairies are dwarfed by the scale of climate change.”
America’s foremost experimental composer, John Cage, performs a radical representation of the one hundred and ten key ideas that occur in his writing of the past four decades, building “mesostics” on the name of 15 of those who influenced him…
America’s foremost experimental composer, John Cage, performs a radical representation of the one hundred and ten key ideas that occur in his writing of the past four decades, building “mesostics” on the name of 15 of those who influenced him. The result is a startling recreation of his own intellectual and spiritual journey in a wholly new work with all the freshness and power of true poetic discovery. Themes & Variations stands beside Silence,A Year from Monday and M, and “belongs in all libraries which own his earlier writings …” – Library Journal
Edited with essays on the writers by Andrew McCarron
What is the shape of a life dedicated to poetry—and how, and from where, does such a dedication take hold? Moreover is that foundation a matter of decision, necessity and/or “grace”—or all three to degrees—and what are its costs? Combined with a selection of poems from these three distinguished poets, who together form a core of the Second Generation of New York School poets, Andrew McCarron pursues these questions, and more, through a series of biographical essays addressing each poet’s life story and psychological complexion…
Edited with essays on the writers by Andrew McCarron
What is the shape of a life dedicated to poetry—and how, and from where, does such a dedication take hold? Moreover is that foundation a matter of decision, necessity and/or “grace”—or all three to degrees—and what are its costs? Combined with a selection of poems from these three distinguished poets, who together form a core of the Second Generation of New York School poets, Andrew McCarron pursues these questions, and more, through a series of biographical essays addressing each poet’s life story and psychological complexion—and what critical insights such gleanings might lead. The poetry alone of North, Towle and Violi—exact in its execution and wide in its—is of enduring value and utility; juxtaposed with and in part seen through McCarron’s exegeses, these qualities assume a poignancy that seems to lead us further into an examination of our human fate and of what it’s all about: or as Towle writes, “in between the great saga of America, / lying like a lost nickel in New York’s platonic gutter.” As long as interest in the New York School holds—and in fact continues to grow—Three New York Poets will remain an essential guide.
Tokyoatoto is made of and from a hand-written book composed by the poet Sam Truitt in the course of a 2019 Tokyo sojourn. The writing includes, among other elements, descriptions, impressions, insights into Japanese life and culture and the concrete exigencies of negotiating a foreign land….
Tokyoatoto is made of and from a hand-written book composed by the poet Sam Truitt in the course of a 2019 Tokyo sojourn. The writing includes, among other elements, descriptions, impressions, insights into Japanese life and culture and the concrete exigencies of negotiating a foreign land. This last aspect is somewhat complicated by the fact Truitt lived in Tokyo for four years from the age of three and that Japanese was very close to his first language. Moreover the culture of Japan was also close to his first, so that this influence acts as a palimpsest backfield to the writing as the author both seeks and betimes touches traces of its influence. Tokyoatoto‘s structure is unique in that Truitt seeks to foreground that movement toward originality by reproducing in facsimile the pages of the hand-written book, with their transcriptions appearing on opposite pages. An engaging, thoughtful and sometimes profound glimpse into contemporary life in Tokyo from a perspective of complicated naivety, Tokyoatoto is a fast, entertaining poetic flight full of pratfalls, missed connections, slips and surrenders in which, as the author writes on a Tokyo subway passage, “one senses a web each of us hold together & against & around us like a net knit of civility not docility as there are some faraway landscapes in our mind & in our heart & our bodies are dreaming all of them uniting to listen to the underground hum its magic.”
ADVANCE PRAISE for Tokyoatoto
“Sam Truitt has added a wonderful new innovative example of one of my favorite genres—travel poetry. By way of two ‘T squares’ (Times and Tiananmen), on the way to Japan, he generously expands the notational into double accordion-fold expanses, condensing sound, thought, perception and time. The reader is invited into the poet’s process alternating between quicksilver caught thought to poems lifted to the next level of line-break shape and form. The notebook page determines each ‘song’s’ length, much as Kerouac does with his MEXICO CITY BLUES, each part fitting in a pocket notebook. Here Truitt scores his poems across vertical lines, creating a palimpsest that references both the verticality of written Japanese language cross-hatched with English, as well as flown-through clouds of sound gathering in storm. In this travelogue of the present moment back in time to a formative locale, what’s here now? In this delightful map of the mind moving we are given both deft improvisation and sculptural thought-song of all senses played ‘toward the most beautiful / place on earth 52 years / coming home.’”
—Lee Ann Brown, author of Philtre: Writing in the Dark 1989-2020
“Inscription and transcription, the two fundamental modes of literary composition, echo each other in this work. The texts alternate—notebook handwritten, poem typeset—calling their relationship into a dialogue. We stop seeing one as the inevitable outcome of the other. The process of writing interweaves the autographic hand and the allographic type, the individual expression and the linguistic system. Are the works ‘the same’ in each version—or does the process engage us with the impossibility of their being identical to each other. The intimacy of writing as note-taking feels palpably present. We intrude on those personal pages, even in facsimile. By contrast, the public-facing presentation of the typeset texts feels bold, exposed, declaratively blunt in its directness. Throughout, the texts themselves constantly reference lines and notations, divisions and demarcations, marking personal time and actual space across coordinates of language. Tracking, tracing, defining, delineating—all the many terms of writing activate this work and its notational transits.”
—Johanna Drucker, author of Diagrammatic Writing
“Pop testimony, an epiphany going from language to a linguistic beyond of sullen images (too good to be entropy, though), conforming the edge of a (self) reflective anthroposphere. This staccato rumination shows culture to be something less (and more) than the usual accumulation-in-progress of technical & folkloric victories. Tokyoatoto is fine funk.”
—Omar Pérez, author of Cubanology
Tristia is the book that firmly established Mandelstam as a major Russian poet…
Tristia is the book that firmly established Mandelstam as a major Russian poet. This first complete and bilingual edition reproduces the original Petrograd text of 1922. Tristia, his second book, marks the beginning of the poet’s maturity and the culmination of his involvement with the innovative group, the Acmeists. As translator Bruce McClelland writes in the Preface: “The poems of Tristia comprise the acme of Acmeism, which in turn became a literary philosophy whose concerns resonate with many issues in contemporary poetic discourse.” For while Mandelstam lived comfortably with “the strictness of self-imposed forms,” at the same time he certainly did not simply “adjust” to reality. Rather he invested poetry with such a high degree of substantiality that for him (and for us) it was capable of penetrating reality—breaking the glass of illusion in a way that all the theosophical incantations of the Symbolists never could. Because the Acmeists (like the American Imagists) broke with exhausted conventions and vague mysticism, Mandelstam is sometimes mistaken for a chilly realist. On the contrary, like several generations of American poets he sought to rescue the visionary in the actual, through a poetics of immediacy and the renewal of language itself. McClelland’s translations aim to show us a way into this less appreciated dimension of Mandelstam and the urge for a new poetics.
In 2015, Charles Stein started drawing in a particular way, the result of which, a few years on, is a continuum of hand-drawn works on paper. Though worked out with considerable deliberation regarding overall structure, the final images are emerging forms…
In 2015, Charles Stein started drawing in a particular way, the result of which, a few years on, is a continuum of hand-drawn works on paper. Though worked out with considerable deliberation regarding overall structure, the final images are emerging forms—arise in the concrete process of drawing itself—rather than the programmed achievements of that deliberation. The way they’re to be experienced, according to Stein, is similarly emergent, or as he says: “They are offered for extended perusal, for they will not yield their secrets on a single glance but, perhaps, solicit … retinal sensation, cortical processing, conceptual reflection, ineffable integration.”
Twelve Drawings is a fine, 10.75 x 15-inch, limited edition of 350 copies, of which 150 are unsigned ($75) and 200 are signed and numbered ($150). To buy this book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Call and response. The breathing body of poetry from the beginning. The psalms of David, the wave of them, rise and fall of plainchant, verse and response…
Call and response. The breathing body of poetry from the beginning. The psalms of David, the wave of them, rise and fall of plainchant, verse and response. The constantly shifting pause between the half-lines of Old English poetry and the poems of the Edda, the half-lines of the Kalevala swayed out four-handed on the saga bench. So I thought towards the two-line stanza as experiments in duration, in complex syntactic and melodic demands. The melody of the first line necessitates the melody of the next. Shape shaping shape. Formally, the poem engages with one constraint: each line wants to be semantically intact—ideally, any line could stand alone, be my Last Words, my epitaph. Yet it also must link syntactically or narratively with the line that follows. And each stanza must stand in like relation with the stanzas before and after. This requirement extends to line structure something that I’ve worked with for years (usually furtively): hypersyntax, where phrases link with what comes before or after, or plausibly stand alone. Uncertainties tries to use these strategies in “mental strife,” to solicit the dissolving of certainties—in between the inbreath and the outbreath, where nothing is fixed, and freedom begins.
This series of experimental poems—written in continuous prose-like paragraphs but with the rhythmic attentiveness of the finest verse – allows the ever-shifting present to emerge like various threads of a fabric in the making…
This series of experimental poems—written in continuous prose-like paragraphs but with the rhythmic attentiveness of the finest verse – allows the ever-shifting present to emerge like various threads of a fabric in the making. Economic, political, and poetic subjects weave through the text, delivering meanings on one page that are unraveled on the next. Familiar word patterns transmute suddenly with an associative leap or syntactic twist or a play on sound, enacting the sense of the body in motion, the self seeking the other, or catching glimpses of the divine.
“Uncommon Grammar Cloth stretches the imaginings & musings of the unsuspecting reader. Refreshing in its unpredictability, its fascinating “moves,” Cheryl Pallant’s book is a strong debut on the post-post-modern stage.” – Anne Waldman
“Cheryl Pallant’s first book is written in continuous, prose-like “paragraphs” but with the rhythmic attentiveness of the finest verse. “Reality is unfinished business,” wrote poet Charles Olson, and these poems seem to say it is the Poet’s business to make sure – in spite of all temptations to bring meaning to closure – that it stays that way!” – Charles Stein
“Weaving words with rare energy and skill, Cheryl Pallant’s Uncommon Grammar Cloth joins the increasing number of contemporary cross-genre works that return writing to “writing” in ways both old and new, reviving the tradition harking back to Sterne and Stein, refusing to be boxed in as either “poetry” or “prose”: “extreme of stratospheric glee,” “thanks and welcome and arrivederci and Pontiac and rutabaga” – yes, right, and Onward! – Anselm Hollo
The jazz term “riff” is short for “riffle”—“make rough.” In Untam’d Wing: Riffs on Romantic Poetry, scholar/poet Jeffrey Robinson sets out much like a jazz musician to renew a great body of work (say, Miles Davis on George Gershwin)—“to recast,” as he says in the Prefatory Note, “what have become monuments, with all the inertness of passive appreciation that monumentality encourages, into living forms”…
The jazz term “riff” is short for “riffle”—“make rough.” In Untam’d Wing: Riffs on Romantic Poetry, scholar/poet Jeffrey Robinson sets out much like a jazz musician to renew a great body of work (say, Miles Davis on George Gershwin)—“to recast,” as he says in the Prefatory Note, “what have become monuments, with all the inertness of passive appreciation that monumentality encourages, into living forms.” If he “roughs up” some of our long-time favorites, it’s not to revise, and certainly not to improve, but on the contrary to reveal a timeless dimension that is of the very nature of the Romantic: “I would define a ‘romantic’ poem, of whatever vintage, as one that invites its own renewal in every present.” With all the boldness and subtle care of the poets he celebrates, Robinson stakes his “life-long involvement as reader, teacher, and scholar/critic of Romantic poetry” on an equally committed “absorption and belief in the discoveries of modern and contemporary experimental poetry.” Like a true marriage it lays bare both parties.
“Untam’d Wing is a heady conglomeration of poetic intensities and re-visionings, of the Romantic mother lode. Only a poet deeply embedded in and enthralled by this realm could take wild liberties and shape them into a contemporary volume of such curious and inventive range. Jeffrey Robinson is a scholar and has lived inside the Romantic body for decades, and precisely because of this his imagination is highly attuned to further Romantic nuance…. He sheds bright light on meaning and message. He is the scientist/artist finally breaking free of shackles.”
—Anne Waldman, from the foreword
“Useful Knowledge is pleasant and therefore it is very much to be enjoyed,” writes Gertrude Stein in her “Advertisement for this Book”—an apt characterization of the experience of reading it sixty years after its disappearance from print…
Useful Knowledge is pleasant and therefore it is very much to be enjoyed,” writes Gertrude Stein in her “Advertisement for this Book”—an apt characterization of the experience of reading it sixty years after its disappearance from print. Despite her long expatriation, she “always remained” in her words, “firmly born in Allegheny Pennsylvania.” Indeed, physical detachment from her homeland seems only to have deepened her love for the country, a passion very nearly erotic, that blossomed in this private remembrance that is both tender and humorous. War, Woodrow Wilson, Chicago, Sherwood Anderson – such is the range of her intimate concerns. As for the significant questions to which her writings respond: “Wherein Iowa differs from Kansas and Indiana” and “Wherein the South differs from the North,” useful knowledge indeed, when the thought is opened along with the word in these extraordinary prose inventions. Keith Waldrop’s introduction furnishes new insight into the process and development of Stein’s infamous style as always more intricately evolving than is recognized. And Edward Burns provides “useful knowledge about Useful Knowledge,” the kind of information about Stein’s text that we rarely find when we most want it.
Following World War II, writers and poets in Austria sought to distance themselves from the German influence and to rescue their language from the continuing abuses by the Austrian establishment…
Following World War II, writers and poets in Austria sought to distance themselves from the German influence and to rescue their language from the continuing abuses by the Austrian establishment. The established order, which had embraced collaboration with the Nazis, remained provincial and hostile to any experimentation. The Vienna Group (Friederike Mayr6cker, Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Ernst Jandl, H.C. Artmann and Gerhard Rahm), a group of friends, mining other earlier outside movements -Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism -sought to make art which threatened the established order. In this, they succeeded. The stance adopted from the beginning is best summarized by the introduction to the group’s initial manifesto by H.C. Artmann – “There is only one inalienable principle, namely that anyone can be a poet without ever having written or uttered a single word.” It was a poetic logic which allowed for the use of dialect poems in much the same way as sound poems; visual poems; alternatives to sentences; lists and everyday information; continuing experimentation In not only form but in the nature of content. What better way to recover one’s language than to charge it, to make it resonate, to enhance it and finally cause It to evolve. This first English anthology, The Vienna Group, edited and translated by Rosmarie Waldrop and Harriet Watts, contains a generous selection from each of the above poets, showing not only the variety but the intrinsic humor and sense of play which has made this movement’s contributions all the more accessible. Their work anticipated not only the present concerns with the nature of language and syntax, it also provided the roots for the more widely revered work of fellow Austrians, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke. It is an essential and highly recommended addition to all collections.
What the President Will Say and Do!! is a book about Power and Being, and the languages integral to both. The ostensible subject of Gins’ formidable wit is “The Presidency” and “The Man” who gives it voice…
WHAT THE PRESIDENT WILL SAY AND DO!! is a book about Power and Being, and the languages integral to both. The ostensible subject of Gins’ formidable wit is “The Presidency” and “The Man” who gives it voice. But her virtuosic deconstruction of the devices of political rhetoric suggests a deeper purpose: one related to identity, language, and the value of meaning. Through such pieces as “THE History of THE” and “How to Breathe” Gins sculpts a multidimensional discourse and proposes a model strategy for free, effective speech. Utopia, the author implies, depends on a practical, uncoerced poetics. “Thank god for thinking…. I love the rationally incisive instructions, I always feel like I’m getting somewhere…. It’s excellent. Great cases homiletically packaged for the pro and con alike. Syntax and so-called expectations (Great!)….”–Robert Creeley.
This book is a presentation of Dzogchen as taught in the Bon tradition…
This book is a presentation of Dzogchen as taught in the Bon tradition. Dzogchen has began to be familiar to Westerners parincipally through the teachings of Nyingmapa school. In WONDERS OF THE NATURAL MIND, the author presents the Dzogchne teachings based on the Zhang Shung NyanGyud, the fundamental Bon text. The test gives an epitome of the main points of Dzogchen, its relation to the various systems of Bon teachings, and the authoer’s personal relfections on the practive of Dzogchen in the West.
Praise for Wordsworth Day by Day
“Boldly flaunting the crossing of genres, Jeffrey Robinson’s Wordsworth Day by Day is literary criticism’s fully present response to that medieval classic and devotional text, the Book of Hours. With stunning scholarship and passion Robinson creates a post-modern breviary on Wordsworth’s poetics that is rigorously meditative and inquiring in its illuminating stroll. A visionary diary, a day by day collaboration with Wordsworthian vitality and the slow grace of that poetic freedom.”—Maureen Owen, author of American Rush.
“Jeffrey Robinson’s extraordinary book goes way past criticism ‘as we know it,’ to offer a reading-through (sometimes, in Cage’s phrase, a writing-through) of Wordsworth & other arch Romantics. In the manner of a spiritual diary he sets out to talk – on a day to day basis & in the presence of [Wordsworth’s] poems – of what he sees in them & often, beautifully, to transform or, as he says, deform them. More than that, as in his other recent work combining Romanticism & the experimental modernism to which it leads, Robinson brings Wordsworth into the present, makes of him not only his William Wordsworth but ours as well.”—Jerome Rothenberg, author of Khurbn and A Paradise of Poets
This book is one of the few clear and still possible manifestos of our time…
This book is one of the few clear and still possible manifestos of our time, composed by Ed Sanders (born August 17, 1939), American poet, singer, social activist, environmentalist, author and publisher.
“Holst has long been treasured in the underground New York literary scene. His impish delivery is filled with a childlike delight in tale-spinning, and yet his work is recognized for its inscrutable mysteries. Containing every story Holst has ever written, nearly a third of them never before published, this collection should establish Holst’s reputation among a wider public. If there is a single aesthetic preoccupation in these tales, it is with storytelling itself. In the title piece, a Siamese cat speaks ‘Zebraic,’ bewitching zebras so that he is able to kill them, until he meets the zebra storyteller who has already imagined a Siamese cat speaking Zebraic. This allows him to kill the cat, and ‘that is the function of the storyteller,’ Holst concludes. Such postmodern concerns, however, do not become boorish. Above all, Holst seeks to entertain, not lecture; imagination and language receive no especial privilege here, but humor always does. In ‘The Language of Cats,’ at the end of one rather long and unsuccessful attempt to describe a confused state of mind, the narrator resorts to: ‘imagine how the world would appear to a person after finishing such a ridiculously lengthy, pointless sentence.’ Such authorial winks give a hint of what it is like to be in the presence of this master of the told tale.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The fertile imagination of fable-fabricator Holst (The Language of Cats, etc.) appears in all its glory in his latest collection of 64 far-fetched stories and fragments, 18 of which are making their publishing debut. Juggling mind-bending juxtapositions in his eclectic view of the world, Holst often rearranges familiar scenes or institutions into terra incognita, but leaves enough of the old in place to serve as an unsettling reminder of how easily the known becomes strange. Cats and their inscrutable ways are a favorite subject, as Sherlock Holmes and Watson take on human guise at will and use their furry logic (‘Adventure of the Giant Rat of Sumatra) to solve a brutal killing of a fellow feline, while ‘The Cat Who Owned an Apartment’ discovers that patience, and a quick pounce, can bring unexpected but richly deserved rewards. New York City and other jungles of the world are used to good effect, with a mound of garbage proving the death of a family that inadvertently threw its life savings out in the trash (‘Finders Keepers’); but Africa is no more hospitable to a legendary jazz drummer, who leaves fame behind to search for a tribe of drummers only to find his death when he recalls his past at an inopportune moment (‘Tom-Tom’). The most sustained (though incomplete) saga here, ‘The Institute for the Foul Ball,’ features a bold new look at baseball, with a visionary young superstar proposing – at a time when club owners are keen to bolster sagging profits – a paradigm shift that would allow a batter only one strike. Whimsical but with a full complement of death and decay: a selection of primordial melodies and fantastic ‘tudes played with a master’s touch.” – Kirkus Reviews